Part 1 covered attacks through your browser. Part is is about attacks via email. We just had a mandatory training for all employees at work because somebody had this happen to them on a work machine and it created a ton of trouble. You really have to be on the lookout.
The first rule is to never click any link that you get in an email. If you always follow that rule, you are extremely unlikely to have any problems.
Ok, we both know that rule will be broken. So what should you think about before clicking on a link in an email?
- Assume it’s a scam, a virus, or both.
- Are you expecting to receive a link from the sender? Did your buddy call up and say “hey I have this hilarious YouTube video, I’ll send you a link”? If so then you’re probably good to go.
- Does it look like something the sender would normally send you? Did your relative who normally writes you long text-only emails suddenly send you an email that only has a single link in it? Just leave it alone. Wait until you know that it’s something they really sent you before you click it.
- Is some entity like PayPal or your bank telling you that you need to view something on their website? I NEVER click links like this even if I’m completely convinced they are fake. The penalties for being wrong are too great. If my bank says I have an important message about my account security or PayPal says I need to adjust my account settings, I don’t click on the link. Instead, I open up a browser and manually type in the address for my bank. If it’s a legit message, it will also show up somewhere in my account on their site. This is an important guideline to follow with phone calls too. If I ever get someone asking for any personal information, red flags go off. For example, when my credit card company called and said my card had been stolen, they started asking for my social security number, etc to verify some things. I politely asked for the caller’s name and extension, hung up, called the number on the back of my credit card and got back to talking to that same person. That convinced me he was legit and I continued. It’s too easy to scam people this way! I’ve caught people in the act like this too. Just the other day I had someone calling to collect money for the “King County Police” (which is an imaginary org) so I asked for his name and badge number so I could call him back to verify he was legit. It was a scam and it was funny to hear him squirm. (I later reported it to the sheriff's office though it probably doesn’t do much good.)
When in doubt, don’t open a link. If you have to open a link, assume it’s a scam or virus and don’t open the link. If you REALLY have to open the link, see if you can get to that site without clicking on the link. And if you REALLY REALLY have to click the link, make sure that the sender actually intended to send it to you.
Only the paranoid survive. Everyone else gets a virus.
This photo shows all of the cousins on the Martens side of the family at Labor Day in 1983. Does anybody know why we were wearing hats? Ryan and I have birthdays around that time so maybe we were celebrating?
A laptop recently landed on my desk full of some lovely viruses. I won’t say who it was, but really, you shouldn’t be too embarrassed. These virus writers are good at what they do and it’s easy to be tricked. As I fixed up the laptop, I thought about a short series of blog posts that might be of interest to many of you readers, not just the household that got hacked. I’ll cover how virus writers try to get you through your browser, how they attack via email, and then what to do after you suspect you’ve been hacked.
The most common viruses get onto your machine because you clicked something. It’s pretty difficult to have a computer sitting idle with no human in front of it and get a virus. We are the weakest link. So when hackers try to attack you via websites, they’re going to present you with something that is out of the ordinary, but just plausible enough that you’ll click on it. These popups might seem fairly legit. Here’s an example:
A geek will look at this and know it’s fake, but to the general populace, this seems like something serious that should be fixed by clicking Accept and Install. How can you tell it’s fake? That’s tricky but some basic ways are that this installation box is inside of a browser window. That’s your first red flag. What video player is it trying to update? If it’s going to install something, it should be pretty specific. If you have questions you could take that product name and search for it.
But really the best way to defend against this type of thing is to know the legitimate ways you’ll be warned about this type of thing and then be incredibly suspicious of anything that tells you to install something or “click here to fix your computer.” These days, nearly everything that is needed to fix your computer happens automatically in the background via Windows Update. You might see some notifications from Microsoft Security Essentials when you haven’t run a scan in a while but that’s about it.
You should also have Windows User Account Control enabled. Whenever a program tries to install on your machine or access protected areas of the operating system, it will pop up a warning dialog that asks if you’re sure you know what’s going on. Unfortunately if you believed something like the image above then this probably won’t stop you, but it’s a good backstop to really think about what you’re doing.
So if you get a popup that says you have a virus or that is asking you to install something unexpected, just stop. It’s probably a lie, but just in case it’s legitimate and Microsoft Security Essentials is trying to save you, snap a photo with your phone and email it to your favorite geek. Ask them if it’s legit and what you should click. You might save yourself a lot of trouble.
Having a child has made me realize that I have way too many hobbies. Or rather, I have too many hobbies to sustain. When we transfer to new groups at work, the tradition is to send out mail introducing yourself and talking about your hobbies and interests. I included skiing, hiking, motorcycling, target shooting, phone and Win8 development, wood-working and RC airplanes. Even then I felt like I left some out! If there are 52 weekends in the year and a big chunk of them are taken up with family plans, there’s not nearly enough time left to devote to all of those.
I’ve been re-evaluating the time I spend with hobbies. Things like skiing or motorcycle riding are hard to justify because they pull me away from my family for a big chunk of the day. In addition to normal hobbies, my TV and movie watching has dropped to probably about 10-20% of what it used to be. I’ve barely touched video games since Elijah was born, but that had already started to taper off when I got married.
This is one reason that I decided to get into RC airplanes. In theory, we can all go to a park, spend time together, and I can fly a plane for a few minutes while we’re there. I’ve also heard that it’s an excellent parent-child hobby so if I’m still doing it when Elijah is old enough, it’s something he might really enjoy too. That would be a great launching point for learning about engineering, physics, technology etc.
It’s kind of a relief to admit that it’s ok if I don’t go skiing 10 times a year, go on a big multi-day motorcycle ride, or watch every episode of a TV show. And while I believe it’s still important to be involved in a hobby or two, I’m happy to have more time to spend with Tyla and Elijah!
I heard about Peter F. Hamilton from enough distinct sources that I decided it was time to dive into his books. I started by reading Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. These two books go together and tell the story of our future as humans invent wormhole technology. I enjoyed the story but it was a bit too long in some places.
The Void trilogy (The Dreaming Void, The Temporal Void, and The Evolutionary Void) continues in the same universe, the Commonwealth, as the first two books. Some of the same characters appear too helping to tie the two stories together. This one too took a while to get going but finished strong with the third book. If I hadn’t had such strong recommendations for it, I don’t know that I would have stuck it out.
All five books land in the 3-4 star range for me. They’re good books, but they could be great with some pruning.
We’ve gone through lots of books and Amazon reviews trying to find the right products for our home. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Baby Bargains – This book was the key to a lot of our planning before our baby arrived. It has great advice about what you need and what you can skip as well as detailed guidance about what to look for in each item. Each section finishes up with specific recommendations for every budget. If you only get one thing off this list, this is probably the one to get.
- LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Table – No other toy has gotten as much use as this one. When he was very little, we propped this up on two of it’s legs for him to play with. Now that he’s standing up, we have all four legs on it and he’ll spend a lot of time walking around and around playing with all the different sides. As a bonus, it has an English/Spanish switch so I’ve been learning some Spanish. “Cuadrado… ROJO!”
- Philips AVENT Baby Monitor – I recommend that you don’t get a video baby monitor. You’ll end up staring at it all night long and they’re generally not very secure. We went with this monitor from Philips. It has built-in encryption so you’re not going to get someone listening in or talking over your channel. We also opted for this fancy model that shows the room temperature and humidity right on the remote. It will also alert you if either of those fall outside of a range of values that you set. The temperature in particular was really useful on hot summer days and really cold winter nights. You can save a few bucks by skipping those features though and it would still be a great monitor.
- Value Village – Ok this isn’t really a specific thing, but I’m so thankful that Tyla loves Value Village. I think we’ve only paid full price for a couple baby outfits. Everything else is either a hand-me-down or secondhand from Value Village or a consignment shop. Tyla finds great toys there too. You don’t have to pay full price for something your kid is only going to wear four times before they grow out of it.
- Portable Speakers with SD Card player – Instead of buying a dedicated white noise machine, we bought this very simple radio/SD Card/USB portable speaker gizmo. It has a built-in rechargeable battery. We paid less than $20 for it and then downloaded a 1 hour long white noise soundtrack for $1. It works awesome and we can easily move it from room to room as needed. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s available from Amazon anymore but there are many other products like it.
- Baby Carriers – We have a couple of these and they are fantastic. Please do your research as there are popular carriers out there which can have a pretty negative effect on your baby’s development (or even a good carrier can be worn incorrectly.) We loved both the Moby Wrap and the Pikkolo with the Babywearing Belt. The Moby is great because it’s cheap, easy to wash, and fits both Tyla and I easily. We’ve started using the Pikkolo as he has gotten bigger because we think it handles the additional weight a bit easier.
- Miracle Blanket – We don’t swaddle him anymore, but when we did this worked a lot nicer than a standard blanket. Buy at least two of them because you’ll always have one in the wash.
- Oxi Clean Baby – We keep a five gallon bucket in the garage filled with about 3 gallons of water and a scoop of this. Any poopy clothes soak in there for a few hours before getting washed and we don’t have many problems with stains.
- Glider Rocker – These rockers are available at lots of places but we went to a nice furniture store and got a high quality one. It seemed a bit extravagant to me at the time, but I’m so glad we got it along with the rocking ottoman. This chair is almost always occupied! It’s so comfortable and is stain resistant. (The specific rocker we got is listed as “bestc-C8107GP Glider Rocker” on this page.)
We haven’t really regretted too many of our purchases. That’s good because there’s plenty of money to be spent on a new baby. Choosing incorrectly gets expensive!
Earlier this week we ate brats. I told Tyla that every time I eat brats, I think about Great Grandma Hinkle eating brats. I don’t know why it sticks in my head. I just remember her being very proper and not being sure about the brats but carefully eating them with a fork and knife. I was also recently telling Tyla one of the few memories I have of Great Grandpa. He was helping me blow bubbles and somehow I sucked in instead of blowing out. Bubble juice does not taste good!
So when I was looking back through old photos for one to post today, this seemed like a good choice. Great Grandpa Hinkle died when I was pretty young, but Great Grandma lived until I was in college. They were wonderful people!
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